Saturday, 30 April 2011

For All We Know - For All We Know

(Written for Powerplay Magazine) For All We Know is the solo project of Within Temptation guitarist Ruud Jolie, proving a rather different beast to the symphonic metal outfit. The album is a marvellously executed endeavour of atmospheric and emotive art rock, with slices of metal and piano augmentation providing it a solid backbone. Jolie’s writing exhibits a fantastic grasp of melody, displayed early on by the melding of quiet brooding and hooky chorus sensibilities on 'Busy Being Somebody Else'. A defining moment is the album’s shortest cut, 'Keep Breathing' – a wonderfully simple and stripped down number that sees several guest singers (most notably, Sharon den Adel) sing in round canon, followed by a brief injection of liveliness which dissipates before it can spoil the song’s elegance.

Despite its merits, For All We Know isn’t perfect. For instance, the failed Jeff Buckley attempt, 'I Lost Myself Today', comes off more whiney than affecting. Still, the album redeems itself thanks to Ruud and his ensemble knocking out stellar performances on each track. Of significant note are the vocals of Wudstik, whose clean croon is imbued with an enthrallingly bitter tonality and carries many of the songs through the addictive vocal melodies. Honestly, if you’re a fan of atmospheric rock / metal in any capacity, For All You Know is a mature and erudite album that demands your attention.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Devin Townsend Project - Islington Academy - 26/3/2011

From the moment Devin’s perennial mascot, the coffee-obsessed alien Ziltoid, introduced the show by dancing to the Vengaboys, it was clear that this was going to be a rather lively evening. As Ziltoid’s nonsensical stand-up routine came to an end, the first notes of ‘Addicted’ echoed through the venue and the show was off to a proper start. It was immediately notable that the sound was a little quieter than usual for the Islington Academy, but this was hardly a bad thing as the intricate layers of the music came through just that bit more clearly as a result.

Whilst heavily reliant on the Addicted and Ziltoid the Omniscient albums, the set list saw a large portion of Devin’s solo material duly represented. ‘Kingdom’ from Physicist saw a stellar vocal performance from Devin, whereas the fantastic combination of the slow-grooved and ethereal ‘Earth Day’ and the bouncy ‘Bad Devil’ saw the crowd pulsate with excitement. However, it was a shame not to see a single track from Synchestra rear its head. Still, this was forgivable considering the magnitude of enjoyment provided by lengthier tracks such as the raucously over-the-top 'By Your Command'.

As one would expect with any concert involving Devin Townsend, the wealth of music was punctuated with bizarre but hilarious stage banter, not in the least during ‘Life’. Starting the song with a contagious chant of “Balls! Balls! Balls!”, it was only a few minutes before Dev proclaimed the guitar solo to be the worst he has ever written, accompanying its playing with disgusted expressions at every note. Whilst perhaps a bit peculiar, Townsend has an infectious charisma that saw the crowd utterly enamoured with him throughout the gig – whether it was the silly facial expressions, the uplifting comments occasionally peppering the songs or just the sheer musical ability displayed, the man remained a charmer throughout. The rest of the band were no slouches either, but were happier to hang back slightly during the proceedings. Of particular note was the drum-work of Ryan Van Poederooyen (or, as later introduced, “Ryan Van Poo”), whose rhythm section provided the dense backbone needed for this kind of music.

The show eventually began to wind down with the soothingly mellow, if slightly dirge-like, ‘Deep Peace’, leaving the crowd gently swaying in time with the song. Before finishing for the night, the Project invited fifteen fans on stage for closer ‘Bend It Like Bender’ which saw the rather fantastic set brought to a suitably energetic end.